Perfect the art of play 

Confession time: who else has felt their heart sink at an enthusiastic request to play? And instantly been consumed by mummy guilt because (as much as you love them beyond measure) you just can’t find the motivation right now! Yep, play can be HARD for us adults. Especially after an exhausting day juggling the five-hundred-and-ten roles and responsibilities of being a parent.  

When life is zapping for us, our minis have boundless energy and imagination to be using. And there’s good reason for their never-ending appetite for play: play is one of the main ways children learn. As our kids become absorbed in the fun they’re having, they learn all about their abilities and how the world around them works. When we’re playing too, our children learn to feel connected and loved by us.  

It’s clear we should be encouraging play as much as we can!  

Play expert and creator of playHOORAY PlayPrompts, Claire Russell explains: 

“I think, as a parent it's our role to cater for our child's needs; the feeds, the nappies and the play are all part of being a child. Sometimes you don't want to do those things but we are good at putting our child's needs ahead of our own. Play is a fundamental need for a young child. It supports their physical, cognitive and social development and it really is the building blocks for later in life.” 

But what do we do when they want us to be part of the magic – and no amount of puppy-dog eyes are helping build our enthusiasm… The next time you’re feeling overwhelmed by an invitation to get down to their level and ‘get your silly on’, use these tips and make play something you’ll enjoy too: 

Encourage child-led play 

Setting up an invitation-to-play and watching your children explore it on their own terms is hugely satisfying. But how do you get your child to engage for more than 5 minutes? 

Do it the PlayHooray way! Claire gives her tips… 

“When setting up an activity for your child it's always worth taking the time to make it look appealing. You want to draw them in; you want them to touch and explore further no matter how young they are. I have a collection of place mats, bowls, tablecloths, mirrors and fairy lights that I use to make activities inviting. 

Mirrors are great to lie things on top of such as building blocks or to place behind a small world set up such as cars or people. It makes the play space look bigger and gives the child a different view point. 

I also believe it’s good for children to work at different levels, so try to consider activities where the child sits on the floor, kneels, stands or even lies down!” 

Lead gross motor activities 

What if you could watch your kids burn off energy without having to be as active yourself? Here are a few indoor and outdoor games to try, which will build gross motor skills and win you brownie points: 

  • Set up a doorway spider web using masking/parcel/washi tape. Get your child to screw up balls of old wrapping or newspaper. Take aim at the web. Score points when it sticks! 

  • Place 5 or 6 lines of washi tape on the floor (forming a ladder). Invite your children to jump/hop/skip from one line to another or see how many lines wide they can stretch. 

  • Get your child to start at one side of the room. Ask them “how does an [insert animal] walk?” and watch as they do their best physical impressions across the floor. 

  • Ask your child to follow you as you walk across the room. Midway through, stop, and exclaim “Oh no! I’m stuck… in some…. Mud!” and ask them to pull you out and drag you to safety. Then switch roles. Keep changing the material you’re stuck in (ie, mud/jelly/chewing gum/lava/worms) and enjoy the situations they come up with too! 

Try a lazy game 

Really run out of steam and want to engage your little ones without moving? How about these lazy games: 

  • Invest in a colour sided dice. Ask your kids to roll it, and then find a toy/object which matches the colour and bring it to you (while you just sit there)! 

  • Find a cosy spot and be a hospital patient or hairdressing customer. Let your little one look after you. 

  • Play “Bring me something…. Round/soft/hard/blue etc” – another one where all you require is a little brain power (and a comfortable seat). 

  • Pretend to be asleep. Ask your child to wake you up – and watch how they go about it. Be warned, you won’t need to do much… but you may get a little trampled on! 

Want your children to play more enthusiastically on their own? Take it slowly. Our children need to learn from us how to confidently explore the world – real or imaginary. 

Claire reminds us: “You need to teach your child how to play properly. You need to get on the floor and repeatedly show them how to play with their toys, how to use their voices and vocabulary to take on roles and pretend.  

If you've set up a shop for your child to play with make sure they have experienced going in a shop with you and how it works. When you are playing in the shop, demonstrate to your child what the shopkeeper would be doing i.e. using the till, tidying the shelves, counting money, adding prices to items, answering the phone etc.  

Once you have shown your child, you may find the next time they play 'shops' they will be more confident and willing to play alone!” 

Head on over to Play Hooray for a lovely 10% off any orders placed with code ACORNANDPIP.

 How do you make playing with your children easy and fun? Tell us over on Facebook or Instagram! 

Saskia Crawley is a writer, editor, and proud mum of two little boys. Day-to-day business is a mixture of playtime, snack making, and writing web copy & blog content for busy parent bosses in the kids/family sector. Find her online at Share The Joy Media or on Instagram @sharethejoymedia.

February 20, 2017 — admin